Solar-powered Wi-Fi trailer connects remote sites

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CBO's Wi-Fi trailers connect remote work sites

CBO's Wi-Fi trailers connect remote work sites

Bringing wireless network access to remote work sites like mines and railways is always a challenge so a team of Aussie engineers have thrown a Wi-Fi mesh access point on the back of a custom-built tailor which is powered by the sun.

Brisbane-based CBO is a specialist wireless network design consultancy which began building its own steel trailers three years ago due to a lack of suitable apparatus for temporary access.

CBO chief executive Mark McGregor said the trailers can be fitted with any type of communications equipment.

“You can throw on whatever communications equipment you want [and] we have sold a lot of them over the last few years to the mining industry and emergency services,” McGregor said, adding the company has built about 60 trailers in the last three years.

The trailers have a solar photovoltaic panel and a battery pack, but can also be powered by a diesel generator or mains supply.

“We can add a [Telstra] Next G modem for backhaul, or whatever link the customer would like, including satellite or microwave to a point of presence,” McGregor said.

One user of the system is a Queensland coal mine which has Wi-Fi across 40,000 square kilometres. It has 75 Cisco 802.11g mesh links and more than 30 trailers.

McGregor said CBO has done a lot of mobile workers' camps which are served by a Wi-Fi trailer with microwave backhaul to a point of presence.

All up, about 30 companies are using the trailers for wireless connectivity.

“The traditional UHF wireless vendors don't understand things like Cisco layer 3 and how to integrate it with Call Manager,” he said.

The display unit (pictured) is running Cisco's Call Manager and could be made to function as a mobile office with wireless handsets for Web browsing and toll free calls via the network.

“We don't have any sales people; we are all a bunch of techies with a channel strategy where we partner with a heap of businesses including Cisco and IBM,” McGregor said. “We work all over South-East Asia from our single Brisbane office. About 90 percent of our work comes from outside Brisbane, so it doesn't matter if we go to Bundaberg or Bangkok.”

- Rodney Gedda contributed to this report

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